Spring 2020 - HIST 438W D100

Problems in the History of the British Empire (4)

African Perspectives on Empire

Class Number: 4674

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 9:30 AM – 1:20 PM
    AQ 5025, Burnaby

  • Instructor:

    Aaron Windel
    1 778 782-9605
    Office: AQ 6239
  • Prerequisites:

    45 units including 9 units of lower division history.



An investigation of advanced concepts and methodologies in the history of the British empire. Content may vary from offering to offering; see course outline for further information. HIST 438W may be repeated for credit only when a different topic is taught. Writing.


The “Problems in the History of the British Empire” seminar chooses a theme related to the history of the British empire and explores it in depth.  The theme this term is “African Perspectives on Empire.”  The British colonized much of Africa during the era of the “New Imperialism” of the late nineteenth century, and British rule continued in much of Africa until the 1960s.  Through military occupation, land confiscation, and the establishment of settler colonies and colonial states – along with numerous other means – the British sought to re-organize African societies according to the demands of the British colonial system and Britain’s industrial economy.  This course explores the work of several historians who have developed research methods intended to get around the silences and erasures of the colonial archive in order to focus on the perspectives and agency of African people who experienced British colonial rule (rather than on the actions of colonial states, government agents, and European settlers).  Additionally, in the final two weeks of the term we will read and discuss playwright and novelist Wole Soyinka’s memoir of growing up in WWII-era Nigeria, Aké: The Years of Childhood.


  • Participation 25%
  • Canvas discussion posts and pre-seminar questions on each of our three monographs (Atkins, Ochonu, and Peterson) and Soyinka’s memoir; each worth 5% 20%
  • Final book review essay: Choose three books that use historical methods to approach a broad topic of your choosing [within the frame of the course] and discuss the books’ arguments and methods in relation to each other. Approximately 12-15 pages. Draft: 20% | Final: 35% 55%



Moses E. Ochonu, Colonial Meltdown: Northern Nigeria in the Great Depression (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2009).

Derek Peterson, Ethnic Patriotism and the East African Revival: A History of Dissent, c. 1935-1972 (Cambridge University Press)

Wole Soyinka, Aké: The Years of Childhood (New York: Vintage, 1989).

Teresa Barnes, We Women Worked So Hard: Gender, Urbanization and Social Reproduction in Colonial Harare, Zimbabwe, 1930-1956 (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1999).

Registrar Notes:

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